Silverball Magic Exclusive:
Date of Writing: 23rd July 2005, Revised: 23rd September 2005
It all began with that dream: I was in a small American town and I didn't
even know why I was there, but it was alright (dreams can be so careless). I
was riding around to find the address of Stephanie Rogers because I knew she
lived in this town and I also knew exactly where, I only had to find my way
there. When I arrived, I wanted to ring the bell but had some trouble with
my glasses, so I had to do that first - and while I was busy, Stephanie
walked by and headed for the door when she turned around and looked at me
like, "do we know each other?" She then recognized who I was and I asked her
to wait so I could come in with her. It was the first time I "met" Stephanie
personally, but it was not real - not yet.
you have followed my website for a while, you noticed that I have a
relatively regular correspondence with Stephanie Rogers. This began after
she discovered my site, reading the article
about The Machine, after which she wrote an e-mail to me. I had contacted
her months before, but her response never found its way into my mailbox and
so I was left to wonder until April 2005 when she made "first contact" with
me. Ever since, we have been writing each other occasionally and quite a few
bits of information you find on this site came directly from her.
"Who was Stephanie Rogers again?" you might ask. Well, she used to do voice
acting jobs for Williams/Bally in the late 80s and early 90s, most notably
singing the chorus on Black Knight 2000 and playing the female robot in The
Machine as her only lead voice role in pinball. As I summarized in the
Machine article, she has a lot of acting and theater experience, and
nowadays she writes and records songs independently. Her website is
www.hipchick.com. It was the pinball
connection as well as her music that got me so interested in her and I'm
glad we have established such a good relationship of communication over the
Internet. And by the way, if it had not been for the Pinball Network forum,
I never would have known her name!
A Big Coincidence
After I woke from that dream, I wrote an e-mail to Stephanie telling her
about this fantasy and commenting that I'd really like to meet her in person
whenever the chance was present. There was no reply for two days, but
"I will be in Germany on Thursday, but I will most likely be in
Frankfurt, seeing a friend who lives there. Then I will be in Switzerland
for a few days, then back home. I'd like to meet you too!"
Frankfurt? On Thursday? I received this mail on Tuesday, so it were only two
days and she would be in the country! Now the irony was that Frankfurt
really is not all that close to Berlin, so while Stephanie would be in
Germany, she would be too far away to meet... or not? After thinking about
my empty timetable, my charged bank account and the fact that this might be
a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I answered that I would come down to
Frankfurt on Thursday if she agreed, but I was very unsure about it since
she wanted to see a friend and I didn't know how much time she had. And as I
expected, there wasn't a reply for another day, "probably because she has
already left home", I thought.
Then, when I got up on Thursday noon (I'm a nightowl and I have to
compensate for that), I found this little bit in my box:
"this is late notice, but i will definitely be in frankfurt tonight,
although that is pretty far for you! i will be having drinks with friends
around 9 or 10pm. my cell number is: ************, in case you want to make
Holy. Now I had to hurry if I still wanted to get there in time. But first I
had to calm down and clear some things - how much would the ticket cost, how
long would it take me to get there, and did this cell number work? Once I
had figured all these things out, I called her and spoke to her for the
first time. She said that they would wait for me to come, and so I started
preparing for a 24-hour day. I knew that getting there would cost quite a
bit of money, but I also knew that it would be worth the trouble, so I left
home at about 16:00.
Make a Trip...
At 16:30 I encountered a long line at the station and I started getting
doubts about being there in time. Then everything moved a little faster than
I expected and I had my ticket one hour before the train left, so I was free
to roam around. Thankfully this train was going straight through from Berlin
to Frankfurt, meaning it wouldn't take the usual four or five hours but only
three and a half. During the waiting time I tried to call Stephanie again to
inform her of my arrival time, but she didn't answer, so I began sending her
text messages. Once I was on the train and out of Berlin, my cell provider's
network collapsed in the dry landscape and I was unable to receive any calls
or messages from her, but once I was in reach of the network again (when
approaching another city), I found a voice message from Steph on my mailbox
telling me that she had received the text message and that she would call me
in another hour. Since that didn't work out again, the second voice message
sounded more like, "we have found our hotel in Frankfurt, but we don't know
yet where we'll go, so call me once you arrive."
So I called her when I arrived and I had to figure out what she was trying
to tell me because the audio quality was so low, plus she spoke German
street names with an accent I had to analyze first. After comprehending the
subway traffic system, I went a few stops and found myself in a section of
the city which didn't look like downtown at all. I was very surprised to see
dark little streets with old buildings since Berlin is a little more open
and Frankfurt's inner city is so modern. But once I ended up in front of a
door reading "Villa Orange", I knew this was the place.
Meeting Steph at Hotel Villa Orange
I walked in and asked the receptionist for a woman named Stephanie Rogers,
but he looked back at me as if he wanted to ask, "what do you want?"
Confused for a moment, I heard my name being called from behind me and when
I turned around, I saw an American woman and a man sitting on the couch.
They told me they were friends of Stephanie's and that she was upstairs
taking her child to bed, so they offered me a seat and we waited. During
that time we introduced each other and I found out that she was living and
working in Frankfurt, but she didn't speak much German, while her friend was
from Czech and spoke very good English (but no German either). They also
wanted to know how I came to know Stephanie...
But that was the moment when she appeared. She walked into the room and saw
me sitting there, asked whether I was who she thought I was, and then
greeted me with a little hug. First thing I noticed: she looked very
different from what I had seen, but it's like this with every star on TV
versus reality, isn't it? She looked younger, her hair was longer and
generally this moment kind of took the magic out of the air. From this point
on, Stephanie was no longer the person I only saw on photos, she was no
longer a distant idol or my own little star; she was standing there looking
at and talking to me like any other person. Of course she is like any other
person (she keeps repea-ting that if you compliment her too much) and she
isn't much of a star, but since this wasn't only about music but also
pinball, her name does have significance to people like me. And this moment,
just like the rest of the evening, made me aware that Stephanie is now more
of a friend who I admire for her efforts and her talents rather than the
icon you try to reach out for and you almost die from excitement when you
touch it (like meeting Nickelback in 2003, now that was something).
When we sat down to wait for another friend who would join us shortly,
Stephanie told us how surprised she was that I went through all this trouble
to meet her and she commented that "no other man" ever travelled this far
just to see her for a night. She also said that I looked older than I really
was (thanks, Steph! </irony> ;-) And while we talked about the way Steph and
I met and about my pinball obsession, she said that she gets an e-mail every
three to six months from a pinball fan asking whether she was on this or
that pinball machine. So I'm not the only one after all? Then why am I the
only one who travelled that far? XD
When Stephanie's other friend arrived, another American woman living in
Frankfurt and speaking German very well, it was already 23:00 and we didn't
have that much time left to spend, so we went straight out and walked to a
location called the Nordbar (any Frankfurter who reads this now knows that
this bar has been visited by a famous woman ;-) and on our way there
Stephanie kept repeating how strange it was for her to walk through the
backstreets of Frankfurt in the middle of a summer night not knowing what we
were headed for. I could only share that feeling...
At the Bar
Once we arrived, we sat down and stayed for two hours. During that time we
talked about a lot of things, but some of the time I only listened because
the three women had some things to chat about. I was surprised to hear a lot
of music stuff being their topic of con-versation and I realized that these
three girls obviously had a backstory in their music business, which made
this meeting even more interesting. As Steph later told me, she knows the
latter woman (help me, I forgot all these names) just as occasionally as she
knows me, because they were in the same spot at the same time, in a music
workshop in the States.
the conversation turned to me, we began to talk about pinball games because
I had to explain the full story of how I met Steph. They seemed to be rather
fascinated by the fact that our ways crossed purely by coincidence in April
when Stephanie saw my website because of clicks she got on her site linked
from mine (thanks for clicking, anyone). It was also a little difficult to
explain why I'm so fascinated by pinball and how I came to listen to
Stepha-nie's music from there. Steph explained that she must have been on a
dozen pinball games and added that most of them wouldn't be recognizable
featu-ring her voice because of the poor sound quality. It's sad that she
doesn't know the names of these games because one name that she did mention
in an earlier e-mail was Johnny Mnemonic and I know she isn't on that one.
It was also very interesting to hear that Stephanie was never hired by
Williams for voice acting; she was merely asked by the members of her former
band Fish of Destiny because those members were such "irrelevant" ;-) guys
as Dan Forden and Rich Karstens (audio designers for a lot of Williams
games). I knew this bit before, but I didn't know that Stephanie worked for
Williams only to do them a favour! She said that she was usually paid
between 50 and 100 dollars, but sometimes it was even done for free.
Conside-ring that she had her prime voice acting role with The Machine, I
hope that she received a little more than that!
And while we were on the subject, of course I was also asked to describe the
incorporation of her voice into the pinball machine I had at home; Stephanie
could hardly remember the lines she recorded for it. When I began reciting
sentences and talking about laughs and moans (which definitely are a part of
The Machine's playing experience), her friends couldn't hold themselves from
laughing. And to top that off, Stephanie asked whether she should sing the
lines from the Black Knight 2000 chorus which was probably the greatest
moment of the night! Hearing this voice sing these old cheap lines you can
barely recognize in the game was an experience I'll never forget; it was
gold. They must have noticed my affection because they commented that this
had to be an exciting moment for me, which it was.
Except for pinball and music, I also heard a lot of conversation about
ex-boyfriends and weblogs. One of Steph's friends didn't know what a blog
was until that night and she brought up the topic again and again, for
example when I described my website which is not a blog, and she had
trouble understanding the purpose of those things. I don't read blogs either
except when they are of close friends who can't be nearby for a reason,
because why would I read a diary of some guy on the Internet I haven't even
When it turned 0:30 and Friday had started, they asked me how I would get
home. I told them that I wanted to catch the next train back to Berlin and
I was well aware that this wouldn't be until 5:00, but I didn't want to
stay at a hotel. I had planned to stay at the station and wait for the
train, but Stephanie started to worry a bit because she couldn't believe I
wanted to put myself in even more trouble after all this, and on the other
hand she had to get going because all of them had something to do the next
day (Stephanie would move on to Switzerland with her family). Because I
had written down some questions on the train I wanted to ask her, she
agreed with the others to stay another half hour while we would talk about
some of the things I really wanted to hear from her personally.
Because I didn't write down any of the answers Steph gave me to my
questions, I can only tell you this...
Are you working on a third album?
The short answer was "yes". That's great news!
What kind of music do you listen to?
She said she listens to a lot of black music, R&B (not the current stuff
that's just mislabeled R&B), soul, jazz, and some of this influence can be
found in her own music because she puts some soul-like voice into her
singing, whereas the music is quite poppy (but has some funk-inspired
grooves as well).
Don't you want to climb up with your music and become more famous?
Stephanie earlier told me that she lived her life by choice and that she was
fine being a normal wife and mother while entertaining people with her music
in a free and independent form. Now she added that she prefers to stay the
person she is and that she couldn't imagine a high society life as she only
wants to be a woman, not a popstar.
Have you been to Germany before?
She told me that she didn't really plan to come to Germany and this short
visit to Frankfurt was only done because of her friends; she was actually
touring Europe with her family on vacation. She was in Germany once,
surprisingly it was Berlin!
Because time was quite short and we also talked about some personal stuff,
some of the other questions
couldn't be answered live, but I told her I would e-mail those to her and
she responded a few days later with these answers:
Do you produce songs with hooks as potential
hits, like many major artists write their songs to try and make them a
success by including memorable patterns? I found such hooks in "This Time"
and also "In The Light", and "Weight Of The World" (one of my big favs) is very memorable too. Is there
anything you wrote on purpose to make these songs easy on the ears and the
mind, or was that a coincidence?
"I was listening to a lot of Sheryl Crow's last record at the time of
recording 'Your New Life', so I was definitely influenced by the hook
thing. I didn't really do it on purpose. I definitely don't want to be
thinking, 'oh, I need a hook here' on each song, because that would lessen
my approach to the message of the music. Sometimes, though, you may hear
an instrument driving the 'hook', in a repeated riff. Like on 'Inciting
What is it like to stand on a stage and sing to your own fans? Is it a
different feeling to know that people enjoy your music as opposed to you
enjoying the music of other artists? I would assume it is a different
experience when you turn to be the provider of content and people admire
you for that, when you were a fan of others before.
"I love watching people enjoy my songs; I sing to them and I also feel I
am a channel for their expression. Music is communal and can only be a
stirring, interesting thing when it is shared. However performing is also
my job, you know? There's a large part of playing music that is technical
and analytical, that helps feed into the magic of a performance. Amazing
moments do come when you perform and some gigs are filled with them, but
there has to be much technique in place first. Sometimes I watch other
artists as a 'fan' but mostly I watch as a fellow artist."
Do you record any songs live in the studio with
"I haven't done that yet, but maybe on my next record. We did many songs
on 'Not To Keep' with the rhythm section recording together, but mostly we
do over-dubs, mainly due to scheduling. I am also very often writing as
I'm recording, so the songs aren't fully arranged until we get to the
studio. It would be more pre-production work to record live, but we are
definitely best live."
Do you feel that your music opens a different way
of expression for you, because what you sing is emotionally different from
what you talk about?
"Yes. Songs are the emotions you cannot express or overcome in regular
life. I work subconsciously when I first open the book to write. My first
impulses for songs come without much mental intervention. It is in the
editing process that I sometimes think: 'Wow, I am tackling a big subject
here.' There are repeated themes in any artist's music and I think these
are the themes with which we are per-sonally grappling. Also, it is an art
- formed and re-formed - and usual conversations don't allow much for
rewrites or poetic gilding."
When we walked out of the bar, Stephanie thanked me for coming the long way
to meet her and she said that she enjoyed it very much. I can only equally
thank her because it was an extraordinary experience. I was afraid a lot of
times that it might not work out, but as she told me, it did work out in the
end and everything's fine. Stephanie really has that mother tone sometimes,
she reassures you that every-thing is alright.
We walked back a few steps until we stopped at a tram station and Steph's
friends tried to explain how I could get back to the central station at this
time of night. Stephanie was still a little unsure about this, but she was
told that Germans have a way of finding where they want to go if you just
give them the vital information. That was an interesting comment because I
find myself studying maps and working out routes more and more often if I
want to get somewhere.
So then came the big moment of saying goodbye. I was entirely satisfied with
this night even if it wasn't too long; I had spent the time, power and money
on the right thing. During these three hours in which I met the person
behind the music, I realized how much this means to me. Before that night,
Rogers was a name and a good personality attached to it when we communicated
over the Internet, but tonight she became a friend, someone I'm feeling
closer to now than I did before, and when I wanted to say my final words to
her, I just told her that I'd like to thank her so much more and tell her
time and time again how much I admire her. Again this was a moment where I
saw that she didn't really know how to handle that; I'm probably the biggest
Stephanie Rogers fan in the world seeing how often she tried to relativize
her status when I told her how great she is. And while this night brought
Stephanie's character closer to me so that I no longer see her as much of a
pinball or music star, it doesn't change the fact that she is an amazing
person and I'll always be impressed by what she's doing. Whenever I listen
to her songs, I find so many things I'd like to explore further by asking
her, "how did you do that?" and "how did you come up with this?" Like with
every good singer and musician, another side of her personality comes out
when you hear her sing because she puts creativity and emotions into her
music that you don't see when you talk to her. But talking to her was the
other side of her character I never met before, and this was a very good
When I walked through the city, watching people and waiting for trams and
buses (only to take a cab in the end to get to the central station), I
reflected upon the past hours and I noticed that I really missed this person
for a while on my way back to Berlin. That's a good sign to me because I
know she means a great deal to me as a friend, and I have a feeling we'll
meet again someday in the future. And hopefully it will be at a performance
so that both sides of her character can be experienced live!
Update: A Response From Steph
I was recently pointed to Stephanie's website again because there is a
blog entry about this meeting in her "musings" section. She summarizes
the experience in a few very nice words. Go to
and scroll down to "august 1" to read the entry.